KARACHI -- An innovative building material that could be used to construct cheap shelters in poor countries and disaster areas, and is based on a traditional Bangladeshi fibre used to make cloth, has won the top award of US$50,000 at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative's annual competition.
GIST's 'I Dare' business plan competition supports technology entrepreneurs by providing start-up development funding, mentorships and networking opportunities.
This year's awards, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on 28 June, saw technology entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Pakistan win awards, including the prize for best female entrepreneur, which went to an innovator from Pakistan. In October, all winners will travel to the United States to participate in the GIST entrepreneurship programme.
The winning innovation was a material called jutin, based on jute fibre, which is produced widely in Bangladesh.
According to the four winning entrepreneurs, founders of the Greenovation Technologies, jutin is lightweight, heat-insulating and rust-proof. By mixing it with resin, it can be transformed into a sustainable and affordable building substance.
Muhammad Saimum Hossain, director of operations at Greenovation Technologies, told SciDev.Net the technology is almost ready for large scale implementation.
'We are going through a number of trial and error processes to finalise the most suitable jutin mass production method,' Hossain said.
'The only hitch so far has been [related to] the choice of machinery to give the most cost-effective production. We are currently researching three different sets of machinery for three different production methods,' he said.
Jutin could provide building blocks for cheap housing to millions of homeless people around the world and could also be used to build shelters in disaster-stricken areas, the innovators say.
The initiative has received funding and a partnership to enable its development to progress further.
'Once the production method is finalised, jutin is sure to go global,' Hossein told SciDev.Net.
The second prize of US$25,000 was awarded to Ali Raza, an electrical engineer from Pakistan, for the design of a domestic natural gas digester, which produces biogas (and fertiliser as a by-product).
MyDerm, an initiative by Malaysia's Khairul Idzwan Baharin that uses an innovative approach to develop artificial skin for the treatment of ulcers, burns and other skin diseases, was awarded US$10,000.
The 'best female entrepreneur' prize of US$15,000 was awarded to Pakistan's Rumaisa Mohani and her team, for E-Aid, a face-to-face tutoring platform for high school and college students worldwide.
The winners were selected from 385 entries spanning 48 countries. The award is a partnership initiative of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region. The GIST initiative is implemented by the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF Global) and funded by the US Department of State.